5. Five

The first thing I do when I get home from school is 

collapse on to my bed and turn on my laptop. This 

happens every single day. If I’m not at school, you can 

guarantee that my laptop will be somewhere within a 

two-metre radius of my heart. My laptop is my soulmate.

Over the past few months, I’ve come to realise that I’m 

far more of a blog than an actual person. I don’t know 

when this blogging thing started, and I don’t know when 

or why I signed up to this website, but I can’t seem to 

remember what I did before and I don’t know what I’d do 

if I deleted it. I severely regret starting this blog, I really 

do. It’s pretty embarrassing. But it’s the only place where 

I ever find people who are sort of like me. People talk 

about themselves here in ways that people don’t in real life.

If I delete it, I think I’ll probably be completely alone. 

I don’t blog to get more followers or whatever. I’m 

not Evelyn. It’s just that it’s not socially acceptable to say 

depressing stuff out loud in the real world because people 

think that you’re attention-seeking. I hate that. So what 

I’m saying is that it’s nice to be able to say whatever I 

want. Even if it is only on the Internet.

After waiting a hundred billion years for my Internet 

to load, I spend a good while on my blog. There are a 

couple of cheesy, anonymous messages – a few of my 

followers get all worked up about some of the pathetic 

stuff I post. Then I check Facebook. Two notifications 

– Lucas and Michael have sent friend requests. I accept 

both. Then I check my email. No emails.

And then I check the Solitaire blog again.

It’s still got the photo of Kent looking hilariously passive, 

but apart from that the only addition to the blog is the 

title. It now reads: 

Solitaire: Patience Kills.

I don’t know what these Solitaire people are trying to do, 

but ‘Patience Kills’ is the stupidest imitation of some James 

Bond film title that I have ever heard. It sounds like an 

online betting website. 

I take the SOLITAIRE.CO.UK Post-it out of my 

pocket and place it precisely in the centre of the only 

empty wall in my room. 

I think about what happened today with Lucas Ryan and, 

for a brief moment, I feel kind of hopeful again. I don’t know. 

Whatever. I don’t know why I bothered with this. I don’t 

even know why I followed those Post-its into that computer 

room. I don’t know why I do anything, for God’s sake.

Eventually, I find the will to get up and plod downstairs 

to get a drink. Mum’s in the kitchen on the computer. 

She’s very much like me, if you think about it. She’s in 

love with Microsoft Excel the way I’m in love with Google 

Chrome. She asks me how my day was, but I just shrug 

and say that it was fine, because I’m fairly sure that she 

doesn’t care what my answer is.

It’s because we’re so similar that we stopped talking to 

each other so much. When we do talk, we either struggle 

to find things to say or we just get angry, so apparently 

we’ve reached a mutual agreement that there’s really no 

point trying any more. I’m not too bothered. My dad’s 

quite chatty, even if everything he says is extraordinarily

irrelevant to my life, and I’ve still got Charlie.

The house phone rings.

“Get that, would you?” says Mum.

I hate the phone. It’s the worst invention in the history 

of the world because, if you don’t talk, nothing happens. 

You can’t get by with simply listening and nodding your 

head in all the right places. You have to talk. You have 

no option. It takes away my freedom of non-speech.

I pick it up anyway, because I’m not a horrible daughter.

“Hello?” I say.

“Tori. It’s me.” It’s Becky. “Why the hell are you 

answering the phone?”

“I decided to rethink my attitude towards life and 

become an entirely different person.”

“Say again?”

“Why are you calling me? You never call me.”

“Dude, this is absolutely too important to text.”

There’s a pause. I expect her to continue, but she seems 

to be waiting for me to speak.


“It’s Jack.”


Becky has called about her almost-boyfriend, Jack. 

She does this to me very often. Not call me, I mean.

Ramble at me about her various almost-boyfriends.

While Becky is talking, I put Mms and Yeahs and Oh 

my Gods where they need to be. Her voice fades a little 

as I drift away and picture myself as her. As a lovely, 

happy, hilarious girl who gets invited to at least two 

parties a week and can start up a conversation within two 

seconds. I picture myself entering a party. Throbbing 

music, everyone with a bottle in their hand – somehow, 

there’s a crowd around me. I’m laughing, I’m the centre 

of attention. Eyes light up in admiration as I tell another 

of my hysterically embarrassing stories, perhaps a drunk 

story, or an ex-boyfriend story, or simply a time that I did 

something remarkable, and everyone wonders how I 

manage to have such an eccentric, adventurous, carefree 

adolescence. Everyone hugs me. Everyone wants to know 

what I’ve been up to. When I dance, people dance; when 

I sit down, ready to tell secrets, people form a circle; when 

I leave, the party fades away and dies, like a forgotten dream. 

“—you can guess what I’m talking about,” she says.

I really can’t. 

“A few weeks ago – God, I should have told you this 

– we had sex.”

I sort of freeze up because this takes me by surprise.


Then I realise that this has been coming for a long time.

I’d always kind of respected Becky for being a virgin, 

which is kind of pretentious, if you think about it. I mean, 

we’re all at least sixteen now, and Becky’s nearly seventeen, 

and it’s fine if you want to have sex, I don’t care, it’s not 

a crime. But the fact that we were both virgins – I don’t 

know. I guess it made us equal, in a twisted way. And 

now here I am. Second place in something else. 

“Well—” There is literally nothing I can say about this. 


“You’re judging me. You think I’m a slut.”

“I don’t!”

“I can tell. You’re using your judgementy voice.”

“I’m not!”

There’s a pause. What do you say to something like 

that? Well done? Good job?

She starts explaining how Jack has this friend who would 

supposedly be ‘perfect’ for me. I think that is unlikely 

unless he’s entirely mute, blind or deaf. Or all three. 

Once I get off the phone, I sort of stand there in the 

kitchen. Mum’s still clicking away at the computer and I 

start to feel, again, like this whole day has been pointless. 

An image of Michael Holden appears in my head and 

then an image of Lucas Ryan and then an image of the 

Solitaire blog. I decide that I need to talk to my brother. 

I pour myself some diet lemonade and leave the kitchen.

My brother, Charles Spring, is fifteen years old and a Year 

11 at Truham Grammar. In my opinion, he is the nicest 

person in the history of the universe and I know that ‘nice’ 

is kind of a meaningless word, but that’s what makes it so 

powerful. It’s very hard to simply be a ‘nice’ person because 

there are a lot of things that can get in the way. When he 

was little, he refused to throw out any of his possessions 

because to him they were all special. Every baby book. 

Every outgrown T-shirt. Every useless board game. He kept 

them all in sky-high piles in his room because everything 

supposedly had some kind of meaning. When I asked about 

a particular item, he’d tell me how he found it at the beach, 

or how it was a hand-me-down from our nan, or how he 

bought it when he was six at London Zoo. 

Mum and Dad got rid of most of that rubbish when 

he got ill last year – I guess he sort of got obsessed with 

it, and he got obsessed with a whole load of other things 

too (mainly food and collecting things), and it really started 

to tear him apart – but that’s all over now. He’s better, 

but he’s still the same kid who thinks everything is special. 

That’s the sort of guy Charlie is.


In the living room, it is extremely unclear what Charlie,

his boyfriend Nick and my other brother Oliver are doing. 

They’ve got these cardboard boxes, and I mean there’s, like, 

fifty of them, piled up all over the room. Oliver, who is seven 

years old, appears to be directing the operation as Nick and 

Charlie build up the boxes to make some kind of shed-sized 

sculpture. The piles of boxes reach the ceiling. Oliver has to 

stand on the sofa to be able to oversee the entire structure.

Eventually, Charlie walks round the small cardboard 

building and notices me staring in from the doorway. 


I blink at him. “Shall I bother asking?”

He gives me this look as if I should know exactly what 

is going on. “We’re building a tractor for Oliver.”

I nod. “Of course. Yes. That’s very clear.”

Nick appears. Nicholas Nelson, a Year 12 like me, is 

one of those laddish lads who actually is into all those 

stereotypical things like rugby and beer and swearing and 

all that, but he also has the most successful combination 

of name and surname I have ever heard, which makes it 

impossible for me to dislike him. I can’t really remember 

when Nick and Charlie became Nick-and-Charlie, but 

Nick is the only one who visited Charlie when he was 

ill so, in my book, he’s definitely all right. 


“Tori.” He nods at me very seriously indeed. “Good. 

We need more free labour.”

“Tori, can you get the Sellotape?” Oliver calls down, 

except he says “thellotape” instead of “Sellotape” because 

he recently lost two front teeth.

I pass Oliver the thellotape, then point towards the 

boxes and ask Charlie: “Where did you get all of 


Charlie just shrugs and walks away saying, “They’re 

Oliver’s, not mine.”

So that’s how I end up building a cardboard tractor in 

our living room.

When we’re finished, Charlie, Nick and I sit inside it 

to admire our work. Oliver goes round the tractor with 

a marker pen, drawing on the wheels the mud stains and 

the machine guns “in case the cows join the Dark Side”. 

It’s sort of peaceful, to be honest. Every box has a big 

black arrow printed on it pointing upwards.

Charlie is telling me about his day. He loves telling me 

about his day.

“Saunders asked us who our favourite musicians were 

and I said Muse and three people asked me if I liked them 

because of Twilight. Apparently, no one believes that it is 

possible to have an original interest.”

I frown. “I would like to meet a boy who has actually 

seen Twilight. Do you not both live in the realm of the

FA Cup and Family Guy?”

Nick sighs. “Tori, you’re generalising again.”

Charlie rolls his head through the air towards him. 

“Nicholas, you mainly watch the FA Cup and Family Guy. 

Let’s be honest.”

“Sometimes I watch the Six Nations.”

We all chuckle, and then there’s a short, un-awkward 

silence, in which I lie down and look up at the cardboard 


I start to tell them about today’s prank. And that leads 

me to thinking about Lucas and Michael Holden.

“I met Lucas Ryan again today,” I say. I don’t mind 

telling this sort of stuff to Nick and Charlie. “He joined 

our school.”

Nick and Charlie blink at the same time.

“Lucas Ryan... as in primary-school Lucas Ryan?” 

frowns Charlie.

“Lucas Ryan left Truham?” frowns Nick. “Balls. I was 

going to copy off him in our psychology mock.”

I nod to both of them. “It was nice to see him. You 

know. Because we can be friends again. I guess. He was 

always so nice to me.”

They both nod back. It’s a knowing sort of nod.

“I also met some guy called Michael Holden.” 

Nick, who had been in the middle of taking a sip of tea,

chokes into his cup. Charlie grins, widely, and starts to giggle.

“What? Do you know him?”

Nick recovers enough to speak, though still coughs 

every few words. “Michael fucking Holden. Shit. He’ll

go down in Truham legend.”

Charlie lowers his head, but keeps his eyes on me. “Don’t 

become friends with him. He’s probably insane. Everyone 

avoided him at Truham because he’s mentally disturbed.”

Patting Charlie on the knee, Nick says, “Then again, 

I made friends with a mental person and that turned out 

pretty spectacular.”

Charlie snorts and slaps away Nick’s hand.

“Do you remember when he tried to get everyone to 

do a flash mob for the Year 11 prank?” says Nick. “And 

in the end he just did it by himself on the lunch tables?”

“What about when he gave a speech on the injustice 

of authority for his Year 12 prefect speech?” says Charlie. 

“Just because he got detention for having that argument 

with Mr Yates during his mock exams!” Both he and 

Nick laugh heartily.

This confirms my suspicion that Michael Holden is not the 

sort of person with whom I would like to be friends. Ever.

Charlie looks up at Nick. “He’s gay, isn’t he? I heard 

he’s gay.”


Nick shrugs. “Well, I heard that he figure skates, so it’s 

not entirely impossible.”

 “Hm.” Charlie frowns. “I thought we knew all the 

Truham gays.”

They pause and both look at me.

“Look,” says Nick, gesturing sincerely to me with one 

hand, “Lucas Ryan’s a cool guy. But there’s something 

wrong with Michael Holden. I mean, it wouldn’t surprise 

me if he was behind that prank.”

The thing is, I don’t think that Nick is right. I don’t 

have any evidence to support this. I’m not even sure why 

I think this. Maybe it was something about the way Michael 

Holden spoke – like he believed everything he said. Maybe 

it was how sad he was when I showed him the empty 

Solitaire blog. Or maybe it was something else, something 

that doesn’t make sense, like the colours of his eyes, or 

his ridiculous side parting, or how he managed to get that 

Post-it note into my hand when I can’t even remember 

our skin touching. Maybe it’s just because he’s too wrong.

As I’m thinking this, Oliver enters the tractor and sits 

down in my lap. I pat him affectionately on the head and 

give him what’s left of my diet lemonade because Mum 

doesn’t let him drink it.

“I don’t know,” I say. “To be honest, I bet it was just 

some twat with a blog.”

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